The Arkansas Republican Party, in its first year as the majority party in the Arkansas legislature, now has its eyes on the judicial branch.
At the Republican Party State Committee last Saturday, the chair of an existing Republican Judicial Review Committee said a PAC would soon be established to financially support and endorse judicial candidates.
Johnny Rhoda of Clinton, who boasts of a mail order Ph.D. from an on-line diploma mill, was quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as saying:
"The Arkansas judicial establishment is today dominated by judges who do not reflect nor represent the views and values of Arkansas voters.
"As we have seen in our federal courts and with increasing frequency in our state courts, good legislation is sometimes overturned by our judicial branch, which seems to substitute the judgment of judges for that of our Legislature or our people," he said, without citing examples.
You can be sure he wasn't thinking of the Republican U.S. Supreme Court majority that overturned civil rights legislation.
Unconstitutional legislation has been overturned by courts since 1803. What Republicans want are judges who understand they are NOT to overturn legislation enacted by Republicans, only that from Democratic majorities. Thus, a Republican PAC will be formed to elect judges who follow the Republican Party's rigid philosophy: Guns may not be regulated, but women's medical rights may be. Corporations' rights are at least equal to those of human beings, except when damaged human beings are seeking court redress for corporate injuries. Constitutional rights end at arrest in criminal cases.
The Republican Party of Arkansas once was in the vanguard of the movement to make judicial elections in the state nonpartisan. The reason wasn't good government, but diminishing the filing fees that then flowed from predominantly Democratic candidates to the Democratic Party.
More recently, Republicans have also led the charge for successful legislation to make prosecutors run in non-partisan elections. Republicans also pushed, unsuccessfully, a bill to make sheriffs run without party label. The stated aim was "nonpartisan" justice.
With what they perceive as a rising Republican majority in the state, Republicans would prefer the old partisan system, where labels would guarantee elections.
But that would seem hypocritical even for them. Instead, they now seek a nonpartisan judicial system in which only Republicans are elected.
The process is well underway. Appeals Court Judge Rhonda Wood, who's flouted ethical rules before by using former Gov. Mike Huckabee as a campaign tout, wants to move up to Supreme Court. Her pal from Conway, Circuit Judge Mike Maggio, is aiming for a Court of Appeals seat. They've already turned up politicking at Republican Party gatherings. GOP PAC man Johnny Rhoda has them on his Rolodex, you may be sure.